Cyclops One DeFelice Jim


Howe was getting a lot of play in the stories. He deserved it.

Maybe in ten years she’d see him again. In five?

In two, if she went ahead with the surgery. She hadn’t decided yet. There was time for that. For now, they had to get ready to dismantle the operation; they’d stayed here much longer than they’d anticipated, running all sorts of extra risks.

Risks that had paid off handsomely.

Something clunked behind her. Megan turned slowly from the chair in her room and saw Rogers standing in the doorway. He’d done an admirable job flying Cyclops One by remote control, and yet, uncharacteristically he hadn’t bragged about it.

Hope for him yet.

“What are you reading?” he asked.

“Just our reviews. We’re a rave. Packed yet?”

Rogers moved his hand from his side. He had a PDA in it. “There’s been a change in plans,” he said, handing it to her.

There was an E-mail screen and a message from Bonham:

Need you at new test. Details will follow. Sorry.

“This is crazy,” she said, thumbing back through it. “Why did he send it to you, not me?”

Rogers shrugged. “Maybe he thinks you’ll disagree.”

“It’s too risky to use the weapon again, and there’s no need.” Megan felt her face flushing. “I can’t believe it. We’re set to leave. I already sent half the security team away.”

“It’s no big deal,” he said, taking the PDA back.

“Screw you, it’s not a big deal.”

Rogers smiled as if he’d like to get the chance.

“I’m going to E-mail him myself,” Megan told him.

“Fine with me.”

“You think we can fly off here indefinitely?”

“I think if we haven’t been seen yet, we won’t be seen for a while. I wouldn’t worry,” Rogers added. “Segrest’ll add some stock to keep us happy.”

“How do you know that?”

“That’s how he is.” He put the handheld computer in his pants pocket and smiled.

Had the bastard talked to Segrest as well? There were no phones here, of course, but E-mail was a different story.

“You talked to Segrest?” she asked.

“No. But I know him.”

She couldn’t tell if this was just his usual blowhard BS or what. Maybe Bonham had told Segrest to pony up, anticipating there’d be a problem.

But why didn’t he come to her?

“This isn’t Segrest’s call,” said Megan.

“E-mail Bonham.”

“I’m not doing it.”

“You think you’re the only one who can fly the Blackjack?”

“Rogers, be realistic. We’re taking too much of a chance.”

“Flying all the way to India wasn’t too much of a chance? You wanted to do that, not me.”

“We did that so we could get out of here without them hounding us for the rest of our lives.”

“We didn’t do it for humanity?”

She ignored his sneer.

“I’m sorry,” said Rogers, suddenly contrite. “Listen, what’s one more mission, more or less?”

“I’m going to contact Bonham,” she said.

“Fine with me.”

“How are we going to feed the rest of the people on the island?”

“We’ll cash them out and tell them to leave once we take off. We blow the plane up with the hangar, just like we planned, and we leave. It’s just a few days later than we thought, that’s all,” said Rogers. “A few days later, and a lot richer.”

Megan shook her head. “You’re too greedy, Abe. Too greedy.”

“Listen, Megan, that’s easy for you to say. You were born rich. I just gave everything I have up to do this. Yeah, I agree, the ABM system makes a hell of a lot of sense, but you know and I know that the real reason this got done was because the people behind Jolice stand to gain billions.”

“Congress never would have voted to fund more development without the test,” said Megan. “We had to have good results.”

“I’m not disagreeing. I’m just saying that the motive for a lot of people happens to be money. I’m not arguing the results, but I don’t want to be criticized by you because I’m taking my share.”

Megan pressed her lips together. There was no arguing with that: Segrest and many of the others were going to profit. She would too. And Bonham — his motivation was political power. None of them were pure.

“I can fly the plane without you if I have to,” said Rogers. “I’ve already talked to the others. They want the money.”

“I’ll bet.” Megan sat in the chair, her eyes focused on the floor. The thing to do now was get out — out, out, out!

But Bonham must have thought the whole thing through. Rogers was probably right: It was highly unlikely they’d be spotted if they hadn’t been already.


“I’m going to E-mail him,” she said, spinning back in the chair.

“Be my guest. Let me know if the new plan comes in.”

Chapter 4

So he was a hero. Now what?

Colonel Thomas Howe, in civilian clothes, sat at the end of the small bar in Alexandria, Virginia. In front of him was a beer that had been poured roughly an hour before, the glass still half full. To his left was a small bowl of stale popcorn. Every so often he’d reach into the bowl and take a single kernel — always a single kernel — examine it, then put it in his mouth and chew deliberately. There was a baseball game on the screen above the bar; Howe stared at it intently, as if he actually cared who won or even knew the score.

He’d wanted to eat dinner by himself, but in the end had been swept up by Bonham with one of the contractors on the laser project and taken to a restaurant somewhere in the Washington suburbs. The parking lot was filled with Mercedes and BMWs, the waiters wore stiff tuxedos, and there were no prices on the menu. Howe had steak. It was very, very good steak, though in truth he would have been fine with a hamburger back in his room at the hotel. He’d practically had to beg to be taken back there, rather than the parties Bonham had lined up.

He had gone inside intending to sleep, but the light was blinking on the phone when he got into the room, and he decided he was better off making himself scarce for the night. He didn’t feel like talking any more today.

So he’d found his way here, a suburban bar with green felt paper on the walls and highly polished wood and flat-screen, wide-tube TVs, and beer that cost $7.50 a glass. The bartender, a woman in her mid-twenties with an hourglass figure, smiled in his direction every fifteen minutes or so, but otherwise left him alone. The place was about three-quarters full when he came in, but people had been slowly draining away; there were less than a dozen left now, including two parties in the leather-covered booths at the other end of the room.

He picked up another piece of popcorn.

“Orioles can’t hit. They don’t understand the value of taking pitches.”

Howe turned to his left, surprised by the voice. It belonged to Andy Fisher. The FBI agent pulled out his cigarettes.

“You’re a pretty good detective to figure out where I was,” said Howe.

“Not really. You’re driving a rental that uses a satellite locator.” Fisher ordered a beer from the bartender. “Put a head on his while you’re at it.”

“No, thanks,” said Howe.

“Want my theory?”

“On what? Baseball?”

“Cyclops One.”

“Probably not.” Howe picked up his glass and took a sip.

“You’re still hooked on York?”

Howe turned to him, said nothing, then turned back.

“Well, for what it’s worth, I think she’s alive.”

Howe laughed. “How do you fake DNA?”

“Oh, you can fake anything. Look at the bartender. Those aren’t real.”

Fisher took a long drag from his cigarette, held the smoke in his mouth, then exhaled slowly.

“They didn’t have to fake the DNA. There was no flesh in that partial boot. The hair on the flight suit — that’s real. Probably a bunch of those spread around. Plane’s real too. But the laser’s not there, not the inside works.”

“You know that for a fact?” asked Howe.

“Not yet. There’s going to be traces, just enough to convince us. Like the hair on the flight suit. Something else is going on. I’ll bet there was another plane.”

Howe’s frustration and anger burst past the last restraints. He spun, ready to slug Fisher.

The agent stopped speaking, but only for a second. “Ever hear of Jolice Missile Systems?”

Howe looked down at his fingers, curled into a fist on the bar. His hand was bright red.

“What about Jolice?”

“I have a theory. You want to hear it before you hit me, or after?”

In outline, the theory was simple: The laser plane had to be stolen to help Jolice do well in the augmented-ABM tests. Jolice’s performance there had been nothing short of amazing, especially considering that the company had never built an antimissile system before. There were all sorts of connections between the people who ran Jolice and Cyclops, Bonham being the focal point. One of the companies in the web of connections had purchased property in Canada six months before: an old hunter’s lodge that just happened to include a lake north of the search area.

But once the FBI agent began talking about the details, things got considerably murkier. Anything close to Cyclops One would have been detected if it had been in the sky during either the ABM tests or the action over Pakistan.



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